Speaker Ryan passes first test with Sunday show marathon

If Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHillicon Valley: Mnuchin urges antitrust review of tech | Progressives want to break up Facebook | Classified election security briefing set for Tuesday | Tech CEOs face pressure to appear before Congress Feehery: An opening to repair our broken immigration system GOP chairman in talks with 'big pharma' on moving drug pricing bill MORE did anything Sunday, it was prove why so many GOP leaders and colleagues wanted him to become Speaker.

Just three days after being elected the 54th Speaker of the House, the Wisconsin Republican appeared on all five major Sunday shows — pulling off the “full Ginsburg” — where he reintroduced himself to the country, stayed on message and steered clear of any headline-grabbing gaffes.

The articulate and telegenic 45-year-old, the youngest Speaker in nearly 150 years and the first from Generation X, showed exactly how he’ll be an effective communicator and fresh-faced leader for his party — especially with the GOP presidential field still in flux.

It’s a role he was already familiar with as Mitt Romney’s 2012 vice presidential running mate, the top GOP negotiator on major bipartisan trade legislation and the author of the eponymous “Ryan budget,” the cost-cutting fiscal blueprint that has defined congressional Republicans for the past five years.

On Sunday, Ryan laid out his broad vision for how to unite fractured House Republicans.

He told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the GOP needs to become a “proposition party” that aggressively puts forth alternative policy ideas, not just an “opposition party” that’s constantly saying no to a Democratic White House.

During a separate interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Ryan vowed to bring more rank-and-file members into the decision-making process, pledging a “bottom-up approach” that the conservative House Freedom Caucus has demanded. “I was not elected dictator of the House,” he declared.

And in another nod to distrusting conservatives, Ryan reiterated on ABC’s “This Week” he wouldn't tackle comprehensive immigration reform while President Obama is in office, calling him “untrustworthy on this issue after the president’s unilateral actions.

But Ryan also used the opportunity to shed some light on his personal life and help make him more relatable. Despite the heavier workload, he said he’ll try to stay active, continuing to camp, hike and mountain climb. Ryan is currently negotiating with his new Capitol Police security detail to give him more freedom during hunting trips.

“I told the security detail that human scent is not good for bow hunting,” he explained on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” So I won't go into the details, but I have to keep life normal. I have to keep life real. And I think they understand that.”

And while he’s now second in line to the presidency and a veteran of D.C. for two decades, Ryan portrayed himself as a humble, penny-pinching “citizen legislator” who will continue to sleep on a cot in his office whenever he’s in Washington.

“I just work here. I don’t live here,” Ryan said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” noting that he commutes home each weekend to his native Janesville, Wis., where he lives with his wife and three young children.

Ryan sparked national headlines in recent weeks by declaring he’d spend his weekends in Wisconsin with his family rather than flying around the country raising loads of cash for the party like his predecessor, former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerGOP revolts multiply against retiring Ryan Can Jim Jordan become top House Republican? Tensions on immigration erupt in the House GOP MORE (R-Ohio).

Some Republicans fretted that his absence from the fundraising circuit would leave a gaping hole in the party’s campaign coffers, especially with Boehner, a prolific fundraiser who hits the road most weekends, out of the picture.

But Ryan has vowed to step up his fundraising efforts in Washington, where his star quality will still attract big-money donors. And he’s promised to be a more vocal and visible spokesman for his party — something he accomplished Sunday on NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox News and CNN.  

“We cannot run on vague platitudes. And that's why I believe we, as Republicans, must offer people of this nation a better way forward and a very specific and bold agenda. And that is what our members are going to unify around,” Ryan said on ABC.

“That's why I say it's a new day. We're starting over. We have a clean slate. And we're going to go on offense.”

Ryan’s gaffe-free interviews Sunday were in stark contrast to a recent cable-news appearance by the GOP leader many assumed would succeed Boehner as Speaker.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyMcCarthy denies that he's discussed plan to force out Ryan Jordan pressed by conservatives to run for Speaker Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump hits federally funded clinics with new abortion restrictions MORE (R-Calif.), a close friend of Ryan, had been in line to take over the Speaker’s gavel. But a week before the vote, McCarthy got tripped up on Fox News, suggesting that Republicans had created the taxpayer-funded Benghazi committee to damage Democrat Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers.

McCarthy soon dropped out of the race for the top job, prompting calls for Ryan to run. Boehner, speaking on CNN, said he used “every ounce of Catholic guilt” to convince Ryan to jump in the race, even telling his fellow Catholic at one point that God was calling him to the job.

But Ryan’s appearances Sunday weren’t free of controversy. He doubled down on his opposition to a paid family leave law, saying he won’t create a “new federal entitlement.” Democrats say Ryan is hypocritical given his recent comments about his desire to spend time with his children on weekends.

“It’s great that Speaker Ryan can speak so openly about his family time, which no one, especially me, can fault him for wanting. But it's disappointing that he refuses to extend that right to all Americans,” said Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), Ryan’s House colleague.

“He is in a unique position to take action on behalf of millions of other moms and dads; what a role model he could be as a young working father with a visible, prominent job in America!” she added. “Instead he shirks responsibility and brushes the issue away by raising a favorite specter of the right — government mandates.”

But while he wouldn’t budge on the paid family leave issue, Ryan did offer up an alternative. The young father said he backs a bill authored by Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) granting workers greater flexibility with their work schedules.

“We’ve had some pretty good legislation on flex time. That’s a bill that I think is a great idea … to give families more flexibility with their hours," Ryan said.